After yesterday, and thanks to Hannah Fergesen and Aisha Iqbal, I think that I am on the right track.  Mostly, I am comforted that there is no right way to start the writing process. 

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According to this article from the Wall Street Journal:

Some authors, like Dan Chaon and Michael Ondaatje, begin stories based on images or phrases, and in Mr. Ondaatje’s case, simply write from sentence to sentence and completely revise and re-order passages later.

Other authors, like Kazuo Ishiguro and Orhan Pamuk, intensively plan and prepare before writing.  Mr. Ishiguro compiles detailed folders and notes about his plot, characters, and their motives and emotions. 

Others, like Russell Bank, are still planners but begin writing with less preparation.  Mr. Banks may begin a story based on a sentence or phrase, but then he creates a rough plot outline and maps the coming pages as he goes.

Some authors, like Hilary Mantel, Edwindge Danticat and Laura Lippman, go to elaborate measures to set up story boards to help them develop their stories.  Ms. Lippman even uses colored cards and ribbon to create a visual of the layout of the story.

Others, like Nicholson Baker, dress in character, or like John Wray, immerse themselves in their character’s surroundings.

Or there are authors, like Kate Christensen or Margaret Atwood, who start a novel believing that they know where it is going only to discover the real story a hundred pages in.

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It seems that the right way to write a novel is the way that works.  Easier said than done, I imagine, but something that I’m eager to discover.